The Carl Albert State College Lady Vikings softball team began the season Tuesday afternoon, now it's the Vikings' turn to hit the diamond.
The CASC Vikings will begin the 2012 season in a home doubleheader against the University of the Ozarks junior varsity beginning at 12:30 p.m. this afternoon at Ival Goodman Field.
“We're looking forward to the season,” said Carl Albert Baseball Coach Mark Pollard, whose team was 28-32 last season — including a Region II Tournament title loss to the eventual national champion Western Oklahoma State College Pioneers. “The kids get here, go through 5.5 months before getting to even getting the season started. Now, it's here. Then, we'll look up and it's May, and the season will be over. When you play 56 games, it's a long season, but it will go really fast. We're really excited. We like this team. We'll have a lot of kids who will play who played a lot last season, so they will have a lot of experience. Last season, things really started good, then we struggled (in the middle portion of the season). Then, we finished really good. We're hoping to build off that finish. One thing I like about this group, we like the chemistry of this group. They hang out together and like each other. This bunch hangs out together, and we think that chemistry will help us succeed this year.”
Once again, Pollard will be aided by CASC Assistant Coach Ryan Bowen.
“Ryan is the one who makes this program run,” Pollard said. “He's a hard worker, and he really does all the work. I just oversee things.”
If there is an area where there's some inexperience for the Vikings, it's in the pitching staff.
“We have five starters right now,” Pollard said. “We have Mason Crenshaw, a freshman out of Red Oak, freshman Lance Kirkland out of Wellston, Dwight Camp who is a freshman from Red Oak. We have two sophomores, Casey Henry out of Vanoss and Tyler Pugh out of Edmond. Tyler had some arm problems this summer and fall, but he looks like he's coming along. If things go right, he'll be back in the mix. We have a deep staff, and these five starting pitchers are deeper than what we've had in a while.
“We have others. We think (Rhett) Acker (from Coalgate) will give us a chance, and he's not far from being in the mix. Erick Cummings, a freshman from Tuttle, is our top left-hander out of the bullpen for us. Matt Johnson (sophomore from Asher) is our closer. He saved seven games for us last year, but he'll also be our everyday second baseman. But give him seven or eight warm-up pitches on the mound, and he's ready to go battle.”
When not saving games, Johnson will spearhead the infield defense, but there will be a different look than a season ago.
“Matt will be right there in the middle of the line-up,” Pollard said. “He was probably our best run-producer and hitter last year. We made a switch with our kids. We didn't do it all fall (scrimmage season), but we got to looking at it and we decided to pull the string early. We think this will make us better defensively. The first thing we did was move Matt to second base. We'll play (former Heavener Wolf) sophomore Brandon Kirkland at third base. He played a lot of third base for us last year. Brandon Cummings (sophomore from Chandler) is our returning catcher, and he's a real good defensive catcher. He'll do most of the catching. Brooks Deatherage, a freshman from Red Oak, will play shortstop, and he may even come in and pitch. Matthew Turner, a freshman from Greenwood, Ark., will be at first base. He wants to go try to see how far he can hit it. We're trying to get him to play a little smaller (a.k.a., 'small ball'). We want him to get more hits and get on base more, even bunt a little bit. That's all new to him because he didn't have to do it in high school. For our offense, that's what we're going to need him to do.”
And the defensive changes don't stop there. It's also visible in the outfield.
“(Sophomore) Chance Scamardo from out of (Fort Smith) Southside returns and will be in center field,” Pollard said. “He'll be our lead-off hitter. We're looking for good things from him. We know he can hit, but we don't know yet if he'll be a good lead-off hitter. Wacey Henderson (sophomore from Latta) will return. He played first base for us last year, but we're moving him to right field, and we expect him to drive in some runs because he can hit. Shawn Hendricks, a freshman from Silo, will play left field. He's normally an infielder, but we're going to put him into the outfield.”
Among the freshmen are three local products — Poteau's Connor Gilstrap, Whitesboro's Dexter Morgan and Wister's Scoute Warren. Morgan will likely be the No. 2 catcher behind Cummings.
Pollard sees Region II as perhaps the toughest one in the country.
“We have the national champions, the Western Oklahoma State Pioneers, in our conference,” he said. “They've been to the World Series four years in a row, and finally knocked the door down and won it. They'll be a factor, and they'll be a factor from now on. Western will be the favorite. The rest of the league is really good, and we're trying to get where (Western) is at. I think we're all evenly matched. NOC-Enid has a good facility and a good program. They're going to be solid, day in and day out. Redlands is always solid. NOC-Tonkawa has made real improvements. Murray State's new coach came out last year, and set the school record for wins — and that's a good program. Anywhere you go in our league, if you don't play your best, you'll get beat.”
It's been a while since the Vikings have been to the NJCAA World Series, which will once again be at Enid's David Allen Memorial Ballpark. Pollard wants to begin a new streak of World Series berths.
“Once you've been, it's a tradition and it's part of your program,” he said. “We've talked about it to these kids a little bit. They've read about it, and they've seen the stuff about our past. They want to get back to the finals of the (Region II) Tournament — that will be the first step. If we can win that, the next step will be getting to the Plains District Series, then getting into that final 10 (to make the World Series). We have to go make things happen, and our goal is to get (to the World Series). We'll see if we can figure out a way to get there.”
Date Team Place Time
Feb. 8 Ozarks JV, DH Poteau 12:30 p.m.
Feb. 14 Coffeyville, DH Poteau Noon
Feb. 15 Bacone JV, DH Muskogee 1 p.m.
Feb. 21 Coffeyville, DH Coffeyville, Kan. 1 p.m.
Feb. 25 Tyler, Texas, DH Tyler, Texas 1 p.m.
Feb. 26 NE Texas Mt. Pleasant, Tx. 12:30 p.m.
Feb. 29 Ozarks JV, DH Clarksville, Ark. 1 p.m.
March 6 Seminole St., DH Seminole 1 p.m.
March 10 Ark. Bapt., DH Poteau 12:30 p.m.
March 13 Kirkwood, Iowa, DH Poteau Noon
March 14 Kirkwood, Iowa, DH Poteau 12:30 p.m.
March 17 SW Iowa, DH Poteau 12:30 p.m.
March 18 SW Iowa, DH Poteau 12:30 p.m.
March 19 SW Iowa Poteau TBA.
March 24 Rose St., DH Midwest City 2 p.m.
March 27 Rose St., DH Poteau 1 p.m.
March 28 Bacone JV, DH Poteau 1 p.m.
March 31 Eastern Wilburton 1 p.m.
April 3 Connors State Poteau 2 p.m.
April 6 Western, DH Poteau 1 p.m.
April 7 Western, DH Poteau 1 p.m.
April 10 Eastern Wilburton 2 p.m.
April 12 Murray St., DH Tishomingo 1 p.m.
April 14 Murray St., DH Poteau 1 p.m.
April 19 NOC-Tonkawa, DH Poteau 1 p.m.
April 21 NOC-Tonkawa, DH Tonkawa 1 p.m.
April 24 Connors State Warner 6:30 p.m.
April 26 NOC-Enid, DH Poteau 1 p.m.
April 29 NOC-Enid, DH Enid 1 p.m.
May 3 Redlands, DH El Reno 1 p.m.
May 5 Redlands, DH Poteau 1 p.m.
May 10-13 Region II Series at Bartlesville TBA.
May 17-19 Plains District Series TBA TBA.
May 26-30 World Series Enid TBA.
June 1-2 World Series Enid TBA.